Police Brutality



Police brutality and excessive force is one of the most divisive and important issues facing our community today. When a police officer brutalizes you, they are directly violating your constitutionally protected civil rights, and you are entitled to hold them accountable, and to recover money damages.
Most states have laws prohibiting the use of police brutality and excessive force, but the major vehicle for vindicating your rights is 42 U.S.C. §1983, a law passed by the United States Congress that allows citizens to sue police officers and government officials for “deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” of the United States.
That means that when a police officer violates your Fourth Amendment right to be free from “unreasonable searches and seizures”, you can sue in federal court and win money awards.


The law surrounding police brutality is complex and difficult to summarize, but the basics are:
  • Generally, police can only lawfully use the amount of force that is “reasonable” under the circumstances. If they exceed this reasonable use of force, they violate your constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment (Protecting against unreasonable searches and seizures). However, the court will view “reasonableness” from the perspective of a “reasonable officer” at the scene. In assessing what a reasonable officer would do on the scene, the court will look at many factors, including: the severity of the crime being investigated, whether the officer was facing an immediate threat to his safety, and whether the suspect was actively resisting arrest or detention.
  • Police enjoy a certain kind of protection from lawsuit called “qualified immunity”. Under this doctrine, police can only be held accountable for conduct that violates “clearly established” rights that a reasonable person would know about.
  • When the police do violate these standards, they can be sued in Federal Court, and are subject to an array of damages, including attorney’s fees (for the underlying arrest and/or prosecution, and for the Excessive Force Lawsuit) pain and suffering, medical bills, lost income, and even punitive damages (often called exemplary damages).



If you have been a victim of police brutality or excessive force, you need a police brutality attorney who knows how to navigate the complex federal court system and who can get you the compensation you are entitled to.
Lawsuits for police brutality are brought in federal court under 42 U.S.C. §1983, and are commonly known as “Section 1983 Lawsuits”. These cases are far more complex than typical Colorado State Court personal injury claims. For that reason, few attorneys handle this kind of lawsuit because they are highly complex, time consuming, and difficult to win. That is why it is necessary that you retain a police brutality attorney who knows how to litigate complex police brutality cases.
Unlike typical personal injury negligence or intentional tort cases, police brutality lawsuits have very specific laws, time limits, and legal standards that a Plaintiff must meet in order to maintain a claim. The attorney your hire must be able to understand and effectively use the Federal Court system to vindicate your civil rights and get you the compensation you deserve.


Police officers are supposed to protect and serve, but all too often they are the perpetrators of heinous civil rights violations. Unfortunately, prosecutors will almost never hold them to account; and their fellow officers almost always rally around to protect them from the law. At Baumgartner Law, our main focus is Police Brutality. We know that if conscientious lawyers don't hold the police to account, no one will.